Buddha Jayanti or Buddha Purnima is the celebration of the birth of Gautama Buddha, and this year it will be observed on May 26. His birth anniversary is also known as Buddha Purnima or Vaisakhi Buddha Purnima or Vesak. As per the Hindu calendar, Buddha Jayanti falls on a full moon day in the month of Vaisakh (which usually falls in April or May). Buddha Jayanti, 2021 will mark the lord Buddha’s 2583rd birth anniversary. However, it is actually based on the Asian lunisolar calendar, which is why the dates change every year. Lord Buddha was born as Prince Siddhartha Gautama on the Purnima Tithi (full moon day) in 563 BC in Lumbini (modern day Nepal). In Hinduism, Buddha is considered as the ninth avatar of Lord Vishnu.
This day is commemorated by Buddhists and Hindus all over the world, and is a major festival in countries like India, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, Thailand, Tibet, China, Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Mongolia, Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia and Sri Lanka (where it is called Vesak), however every country celebrates the festival differently.
According to the British Library blog, “Every full moon day is an auspicious day for Buddhists, but the most important of all is the day of the full moon in May, because three major events in the life of the Gotama Buddha took place on this day. Firstly, the Buddha-to-be, Prince Siddhattha was born at Lumbini Grove on the full moon day in May. Secondly, after six years of hardship, he attained enlightenment under the shade of the Bodhi tree and became Gotama Buddha at Bodh Gaya also on the full moon day of May. Thirdly, after 45 years of teaching the Truth, when he was eighty, at Kusinara, he passed away to nibbana, the cessation of all desire, on the full moon day of May.”
Gautama Buddha preached Dharma (duty), non violence, harmony and kindness. He left his worldly possessions and princedom at the age of 30 to lead a life searching for the truth, seeking penance in the hopes of liberating himself from suffering (duhkha).
On this day, Buddhists and believers of Buddhism around the globe offer prayers, meditate, observe fasts and discuss the teachings of the Buddha. There is also a tradition of taking dips in the holy river Ganga as it is believed this washes away sins. However, this year on account of rising coronavirus cases and deaths, people have been advised to not celebrate the festival in a manner that will flout Covid safety rules and regulations. And have been urged to celebrate in the safety of their own homes.